9 minutes. 540 seconds. That is roughly the amount of time you are going to spend in reading this article.This is also the exact amount of time you will need to finish one answer in the UPSC Mains. The one answer, which carries 12.5 marks. What you may score on that may range from a zero to around 10. To get a zero, you have to be absolutely ignorant about what has been asked. If it is the case, no one can help you. To score a 10, you need to be a master of that specific problem, almost like as if you have been thinking about that and working on that since you were born.
Generally, we all lie somewhere in the middle. In that middle range, you may get a score from 4 to 8. This is the range, by moving up in which, you can reach from a rejected candidate to the status of a top 100 candidates. By adopting some simple methods, you can propel yourself to get almost 50% more marks on the basis of the same content. Let’s understand how can we do that.
1. READ THE QUESTION. AGAIN AND AGAIN.
Your job is not to write an article. It is to answer a question. Out of the 9 minutes, spend first one minutes in reading the question again and again. Underline the key word of the question. Use your pen/pencil to do that. You don’t get additional marks for a clean question paper.
2. ELUCIDATE/ DISCUSS/ CRITICALLY ANALYZE etc.
Many aspirants seem to be really confused about what they should write if the question uses any of these keywords. The answer is simple, THE SAME THING! In 9 minutes, you are not supposed to present a very nuanced article on the issue. Just write whatever you know of the topic. There is no need to go for any tweaking of your answer because of a different word at the end of the question.
3. STRUCTURE YOUR ANSWER.
Everybody says that, but let’s find out how. You have 250 words to write your answer. Spend first 30 words to introduce the problem. Sometimes, it might seem to be a very short introduction, but that’s okay. You need to get to the point super fast. Spend at least 170-180 words to the main point of the question. Ideally there should be two or three main points which you should write about. If there are more points than that, you may also use bullet points to make your point. In this main body, always provide the critique of the points you make. There should never be total endorsement of any idea. At least one major critique has to be provided. In the end, you must provide a conclusion. It might be “what is the final takeaway” kind of a couple of sentences, but it absolutely necessary. There is no way your answer should end without a conclusion.
4. QUOTATIONS, SAYINGS etc.
GS answer, avoid using too many quotes. They tend to dilute the message as they consume time and space and leave you with lesser energy to write the actual answer. If there is a quote, which suits the question perfectly, use that. But never more than one.
5. DIAGRAMS, MAPS.
Oh yes! Use diagrams and maps as and where you can. They save time in explaining a concept or an idea. Also, they save the examiner from the monotony of reading texts all the time. But use then, when they are needed, do not push it.
Whatever anyone might say, it plays a big role in the presentability of your answer. If you are not blessed with a good handwriting, just practice two things. First, try writing bigger and leave more space between words and sentences. Second, make sure that you write in a straight line on an unruled paper. If you follow these two rules, what you write will be legible, which is a good enough factor in UPSC Examination.
7. PRACTICE, PRACTICE and PRACTICE
Last but not the least, you need to keep practicing writing answers of UPSC format very regularly. Generally students tend to take just a couple of month’s practice, in which they just write a few answers. It is just not enough. Writing is an art, you need to learn and cultivate. At , the you get continuous writing training for two years, making you write almost 100 answers, so that the writing becomes cakewalk for you!
So, use these tips and club them with your hardwork and talent. I am sure you will end up writing the script of your success!
Author: Akshay Palande
Akshay Palande is a passionate teacher helping hundreds of students in their UPSC preparation. With a degree in Mechanical Engineering and double masters in Public Administration and Economics, he has experience of teaching UPSC aspirants for 5 years. His subject of expertise are Geography, Polity, Economics and Environment and Ecology.